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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A whirlwind new year for Janeites

Happy new year, Janeites! For us fans of Jane Austen, 2017 is a big year, the biggest since – well, since 2013, when we celebrated the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, still Austen’s most popular work. This year, we have an altogether more melancholy occasion to mark – the two hundredth anniversary of Austen’s death, on July 18, 1817, at the all-too-young age of forty-one. (Depending how you count, it may also be the bicentenary of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, published together in a three-volume set that appeared in December 1817 with a title-page publication date of 1818.) Across the planet, and especially in Austen’s home country of England, Austen fans will celebrate her life and mourn her death at balls, exhibits, lectures, conferences and festivals. Our shelves will creak under the weight of Austen-related books published to coincide with the anniversary. And in Britain, wallets will fill up with Austen-embellished currency. We may even get to see a new Austen movie. An unscientific, and undoubtedly incomplete, sampling of what’s ahead: Year-round * Sometime this year, Britain’s Royal Mint will release £2 coins commemorating Austen’s death and the Bank of England will release a £10 note featuring Austen. She may be the only individual besides the monarch ever featured simultaneously on coins and notes. * Hampshire, England, plans a slew of exhibits, lectures, performances and picnics to celebrate its native daughter. Among the oddest are two works of public art: Basingstoke’s trail of benches decorated in Austen-related art; and Winchester’s trail of rain-enabled Austen quotes. * It remains to be seen whether the new movie of Sanditon – as far as I know, the first screen adaptation of Austen’s unfinished last work – will get the 2017 release that was originally projected. No release date has yet been announced, and the indispensable IMDB lists the film, set to star Charlotte Rampling, as “in development.” January * The British Library, in London, displays all three notebooks of Austen’s Juvenilia, plus family letters and memorabilia, in an exhibit titled “Jane Austen Among Family and Friends.” (Opens January 10) * The Society for Manners and Merriment holds a Jane Austen Evening in Pasadena, California. (January 28) February * The British Library hosts a Jane Austen Study Day for high school students, featuring talks by noted Austen scholars and a viewing of the library’s ongoing Austen exhibition. (February 6) March * The Pittsburgh chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America holds its biannual Jane Austen Festival, “Jane Austen 1817-2017: 200 Years and Still Going Strong!” (March 24-25) * The State University of New York at Plattsburgh hosts a scholarly conference on “Jane Austen & the Arts.” (March 23-25) April * The Jane Austen Foundation of Louisiana throws its tenth annual Jane Austen Literary Festival in Mandeville, featuring Regency costumes, dancing, and a “Perfect Love Letter” competition. (April 1-2) * The Jane Austen Festival Australia, in Canberra, celebrates everything Regency, from food to fencing. (April 21-23) May * Helena Kelly’s book Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, which has drawn some attention in Britain, is published in the United States. (May 2) * As part of the Hampshire celebrations, an exhibition titled “The Mysterious Miss Austen,” opening in Winchester and then moving to other locations, brings together five portraits, acknowledged or disputed, of Austen. (Opens May 13) June * Marian Veevers -- the author, under the name Anna Dean, of a wonderful series of Austen-inflected mysteries set in the Regency -- publishes the non-fiction study Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility, which juxtaposes the lives of Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth. (June 8) * The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosts its fifth annual Jane Austen Summer Program, “200 Years of Persuasion.” (June 15-18) * The annual Jane Austen Regency Week, held in Alton and Chawton, Austen’s old stamping grounds, takes on new resonance this year. (June 17-25) * The British Jane Austen Society ventures far afield, hosting a conference entitled “Transatlantic Perspectives on Jane Austen: 200 Years of Persuasion,” in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (June 20-27) * Devoney Looser’s new book, The Making of Jane Austen, tells the stories of the fans and eccentrics who laid the groundwork for Austen’s contemporary popularity. (June 21) July * Jane Austen’s House Museum, aka Chawton cottage, hosts talks and workshops on Austen’s life in Chawton. (July 7) * British writer and TV presenter Lucy Worsley’s At Home with Jane Austen looks at the familiar story of Austen’s life through the prism of the places she lived and visited. (July 11) * The much-loved Louisville, Kentucky, Jane Austen Festival returns for a ninth time. (July 14-16) * Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried, hosts a special Evensong service on the bicentenary of her death. (July 18) * The Hampshire Regency Dancers hold a Grand Jane Austen Ball. (July 28-30) August * The Friends of Fort George, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, hold an evening tea party to celebrate Persuasion. (August 3) September * The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, hosts its lavish Jane Austen Festival for the seventeenth time. (September 8-17) October * American Janeites gather in sunny Huntington Beach, California, for the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting, whose theme this year is “Jane Austen in Paradise; Intimations of Immortality.” (October 6-8) * Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney publish A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, which examines Austen’s relationship with her brother’s governess, Anne Sharp. (October 17) Whew! I couldn’t find anything planned for November or December, but by then we’ll be too exhausted to do anything but lie on our fainting couches sipping Mr. Woodhouse-approved gruel. Enjoy the new year, everyone!


Jan 2 2017 11:34PM by A. Marie

The more I hear about all these 2017 events, the more uneasy I'm becoming. Possibly I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age, but at least some of them seem inappropriate to me for commemorating the 200th anniversary of a death that came far too soon. Just my tuppence.

Jan 2 2017 11:52PM by Deborah Yaffe

I get what you're saying, but perhaps we can see all these events as celebrating what she accomplished in her all-too-short life. . .

Feb 7 2017 06:26PM by Adriana Sales

Hi Deborah, I would like to add more information about our events here in Brazil. June, 02 to 04 - VI JASBRA´s National Meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. July, 03 until the end of month - Jane Austen´s Life and Legacy exposition in the Public Library ate Liberty Square, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. July, 18 - Lecture on Jane Austen´s Life and Legacy thanks, Adriana

Feb 7 2017 06:32PM by Deborah Yaffe

Fabulous -- thanks, Adriana! Wish I could be there. . .

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